Since the dawn of the streaming economy, De La Soul’s back catalogue was a say-no-go area for music services. The legendary hip-hop trio’s newer albums were available, but the classics that made their name were not. Until this year.
Fans still have a little time to wait: Reservoir will release the group’s first six albums on streaming services on 3 March, 34 years after debut album ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ originally came out in 1989.
It will be joined by ‘De La Soul is Dead’ (1991), ‘Buhloone Mindstate’ (1993), ‘Stakes is High’ (1996), ‘Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000) and AOI: Bionix (2001) on streaming services, with a digital re-release of single ‘The Magic Number’ on 13 January to stoke some buzz. New vinyl, CD and cassette versions of the albums will also be coming out this year, along with new merch.
This has been a long time coming, and is the result of Reservoir acquiring hip-hop label Tommy Boy Music in 2021, then working with Chrysalis, De La Soul and their own label AOI.
“When Reservoir acquired Tommy Boy, the first call we made was to De La Soul,” said Reservoir’s EVP of A&R and catalog development Faith Newman. “We vowed to bring their music to streaming, and it means the world to our team to make good on that promise and expose a whole new generation of listeners to one of the most important catalogs in hip-hop history.”
De La Soul’s first six albums have been one of the highest-profile gaps in the streaming catalogue, although the group did briefly make them available for free download in 2014, albeit admitting after a conversation with their lawyers it was “maybe not the smartest thing to do”.
Clearing the sample-heavy albums for digital release might have been seen as the key challenge keeping them off streaming services, but in 2019 De La Soul went public with some of their tensions with Tommy Boy over royalties, claiming that the group would only get 10% of digital revenues. Later that year, De La Soul said that negotiations to release the back catalogue and/or return the rights to the group had broken down.
Reservoir’s acquisition of Tommy Boy reignited those talks, and in August 2021 De La Soul confirmed that they were “trying to work hard and diligently along with the good folks up at Reservoir to get this done”. The fact that by March it will have been 18 months since that statement hints at the complexities involved, but also the efforts being made to do things right.
“Over the past 18 months, we have worked tirelessly with De La Soul, maintaining a heightened attention to honouring the group’s original musical details, including bringing Prince Paul and the original team to the studio to prepare the catalogue for streaming,” said Reservoir president and COO Rell Lafargue.
“We can’t believe this day is finally here, and we are excited to be able to share our music with fans, old and new,” added De La Soul in their own statement.
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